Up until a few years ago, it was unusual to hear a patient or family member complain about care provided at CHI St. Luke’s Health Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. My, how times have changed. Many people think this fabled hospital where famous surgeons once practiced has lost its way.
As an experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney, I’ve handled many lawsuits and cases involving care provided at the 850-bed St. Luke’s Medical Center. What happened at St. Luke’s in a case that I’m working on right now really boggles my mind.
A man flew in to Houston from out of state for a heart surgery at St. Luke’s. It was a complex surgery, but he appeared stable after surgery and was discharged to go back home for continued follow-up care. It didn’t take long for him to start feeling bad. You can imagine his surprise when his doctors back home found that the St. Luke’s operating room staff left a surgical towel inside his abdomen. Not a small piece of gauze or the like—a whole towel! This caused a bad infection, another surgery, and a lengthy recovery that he’s still enduring.
The word is out about the quality of care issues at St. Luke’s and a recent 203-page report from the federal government uncovers just how deep some of the problems run. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services report identified dangerous conditions putting patient safety at risk including:
· Patients being given medications that weren’t prescribed or ordered by a physician.
· Sewage backed up into a kitchen that was being used to prepare food.
· Staff members ignoring safety policies to prevent air from seeping into blood used for dialysis treatments, which could be a deadly complication.
· Reusing transvaginal ultrasound probes that weren’t properly disinfected.
· Leaving unintended objects inside patients after surgery. In three months, hospital records reflect that a lap sponge, surgical towel (the case I’m handling), and a cervical instrument were accidentally left inside patients.
· Poor infection control. A federal inspector saw a nurse touch an infected dialysis machine without gloves, and another federal inspector noticed a medical equipment cart being removed from the room of a patient with flesh-eating bacteria without evidence of it being decontaminated.
Under Texas law, these types of serious patient safety issues are usually kept secret by hospital leaders, thanks to the generous legal privileges secured for hospitals by their powerful lobbyists. When federal inspectors investigate care deficiencies like this, though, the public gets a rare insight to things that I think are important to know.
As a former hospital administrator, I hope that the St. Luke’s leadership takes these problems seriously and comes up with a solid plan to correct them.
If you’ve been seriously injured from poor care at CHI St. Luke’s Health Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, a top-rated, experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer can help you investigate and pursue your potential lawsuit.